RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini
At this rate, there will be few sprinters left to contend the prestigious final stage on the world famous Champs Elysees after Andre Greipel and Fernando Gaviria joined four other big names on the Tour de France scrapheap on Thursday. Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen, who claimed his maiden stage win last year on the Champs Elysees and won stages seven and eight on this edition, was the first to get off his bike, before the halfway stage of the gruelling 12th stage held over 175.5 kilometers between Bourg d’Oisans and Alpe d’Huez.
It came a day after Britain’s Mark Cavendish, Australian Mark Renshaw and Katusha star Marcel Kittel were all eliminated after failing to make the time cut at the end of Wednesday’s 11th stage. Between them, Cavendish (30), Kittel (14), Greipel (11) and Groenewegen (3) count 58 stage wins between them. But shortly after Groenewegen’s abandon, Lotto-Soudal star Greipel called it a day as he struggled on the Col de la Croix de Fer. “Le Tour loses another sprinter. After Kittel, Cavendish and Groenewegen, now Andre Greipel gives up,” said a brief statement by organizers.
Rick Zabel (Katusha), the son former green jersey winner Erik Zabel, followed suit. And soon after, Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step) also got off his bike, becoming the second Colombian to abandon after last year’s runner-up, Rigoberto Uran, pulled out before the start of the stage. Cavendish, who had been chasing Eddy Merckx’s record tally of 34 wins, crossed the line 1 hour 05 minutes 33 seconds on Wednesday. Earlier, Thursday Tony Gallopin, a key helper for podium-chasing teammate Romain Bardet, pulled out to leave his AG2R team with just five riders.